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A heavy horse charity is issuing a desperate final plea for new premises as their lease draws to an end.

The Working Horse Trust has been based on the Eridge Estate in Tunbridge Wells for 22 years, but they were told in 2012 that they would not be able to stay.

Although their landlords have extended the lease until September this year, the Trust’s director Jo Ambrose said new homes for the charity’s 10 horses will need to be found by July.

“We are facing a looming deadline, we’ve been looking at places but nothing suitable has turned up,” said Jo.

“The big issue from our point of view has been the size of our horses and the way we keep them [they are usually kept in an open barn over winter]. Standard stabling at livery yards or former riding schools just isn’t suitable.”

Jo said that premises with large livestock barns were becoming harder to find, as the relaxation of planning laws meant many had been converted.

“At the moment we’re not saying no to anything, we’re so desperate,” she said. “Ideally we just need around 25 acres of grazing and a building we can work with.

“We thought we’d find something run down we could do up, but so many have now been converted into commercial units or dwellings.”

She added that in order to retain its pool of experienced volunteers, the charity was trying to remain in the Kent/Suffolk region.

“We have to be mindful of how far our current team will be able to travel,” she added. “There’s no point sending horses out if there’s no one there to take care of them.”

As an emergency measure, the Trust is now considering temporarily rehoming some of the horses to buy more time to continue the search.

“Some of our horses are on the wrong side of retirement age and I am hoping a sanctuary might be able to take them. I’d prefer to keep some of them together as they have been together all their lives,” she said. “Five are in that situation and five are younger horses who are still active and need working homes.

“They include a matching pair of Ardennes that we bred and it would be great if there was someone knowledgeable and experienced with these horses who could take them together.”

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The Working Horse Trust was set up to safeguard the future of threatened heavy draught breeds.

As well as open days, aimed to promote the breeds to the public, the horses are also used for agricultural work — recent examples have included bracken control, harrowing the Royal Botanic Gardens’ wildflower meadows and timber extraction.

The Working Horse Trust can be contacted on 01892 750105.

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